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Nurtureshock Says: Spank Those Kids, Maybe

baby-buttJust when you thought the spanking vs. no-spanking debate couldn’t become any more heated, one of Babble’s favorite set of parenting experts has entered the fold to put us back at square one.

NurtureShock co-author Po Bronson talked to the experts in a recent study on corporal punishment, and it turns out the kids who suffered more than one or two whacks on the butt may be no worse off than those kids with pristine baby butts.

Yes, when I waded into the article over at Newsweek.com it looked like those of us in the anti-spanking crowd (myself included) might need to eat a nice black piece of crow. Tough stuff for this vegetarian mama, let me tell you.

As researcher Dr. Marjorie Gunnoe told Bronson, “those who’d been spanked just when they were young ─ ages 2 to 6 ─ were doing a little better as teenagers than those who’d never been spanked. On almost every measure.”

Gulp.

There is some good news for those of us in the non-spanking crowd: the kids who were spanked up through ages 7 to 11 were slightly worse off on “negative outcomes,” slightly better off on “positive outcomes.” So at the bad stuff, they were worse than our kids; at the good stuff, better than our kids? And kids still being put over the knee in teenagehood are officially in trouble.

An even bigger issue: Gunnoe and co. are still looking at whether it’s discipline style as a whole that’s to blame or simply the hand on the butt. As Bronson posits,”spanking regularly isn’t the problem; the problem is having no regular form of discipline at all.”

Which comes back to an argument I’ve often had with parents on the other side of the fence: reactionary spanking done in anger does nothing more to quell a kid’s behavior than parents who ignore their kids’ ill behavior. Every form of discipline must have consistency; without it, you might as well leave the kids to raise themselves.

Image: smorenburg via flickr

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